57 pages 1 hour read

Tom Wolfe

The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test

Nonfiction | Biography | Adult | Published in 1968

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Chapters 4-6

Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 4 Summary: “What Do You Think of My Buddha?”

In Chapter 4, Wolfe examines Kesey’s background, detailing how he went from the boy voted “most likely to succeed” at his Oregon high school to a standout athlete at the University of Oregon to a leader of the American drug culture of the 1960s. Wolfe reports that Kesey was raised in Springfield, Oregon, where his father founded the biggest dairy operation in the Willamette Valley. After his athletically and academically successful undergraduate years at Oregon, he enters Stanford in 1958 on a creative writing fellowship where he and his wife, Faye, are taken in by other intellectuals on Perry Lane, the university’s bohemian quarter (37). The following year, Kesey volunteers to take part in experiments at the Veteran’s Hospital in Menlo Park where subjects would be paid $75 per day to be studied after taking psychotomimetic drugs, which “brought on temporary states resembling psychoses” (40).

While one of the experimental drugs, Ditran, always brought on a bad experience for Kesey, another one, LSD, opens his mind so much that “he could truly see into people for the first time” (42). Soon, Kesey has tried the whole range of drugs: LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, peyote, IT-290, the super amphetamine, and even morning-glory seeds (44).